Three Easy Ways to Increase Workplace Productivity During Times of Illness

Healthy Living

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “productivity losses linked to employee absenteeism cost employers $225.8 billion annually in the United States, or $1,685 per employee.” 

The main driver of this? Employees are coming to work while sick and infecting their coworkers.

As much as employees like to show that they are tough (putting in “face time” even when that face is home to a runny nose or scratchy throat), smart companies are realizing that they cannot continue to condone this behavior. In fact, many companies in Silicon Valley are seeing data-driven cost savings of putting an end to the culture of showing up sick, with an extra emphasis on wellness during cold and flu season.

Visit some of the hottest startups and tech shops around San Francisco and you’ll find free yoga classes, organic caterers, unlimited time off, juice bars, masseuses, even nap pods (sufficient sleep has been proven time and again to improve health)! While needing to keep the office “startup scrappy,” Kinsa offers a daily afternoon stretch session, abundant healthy snacks for munching mid-day, a monthly team health challenge (the team sets goals for a combined number of salads eaten or days we exercise), and as you can imagine - regular temperature monitoring.

But what about those companies that aren’t ready to bring gurus and green drinks to the office? Below are 3 recommended strategies any company, team, or individual can employ to keep the workplace healthy and productive. 

  1. Invest in or find a good conference call service.

The #1 driver of illness in the workplace is employees refusing to stay away when sick. According to a 2013 survey by Canada Life UK,  93% of 1000 employees stated they attend work when feeling unwell.  One easy way to have your employees or coworkers get better while staying abreast of the day to day meetings and presentations is to have simple, always available conference call software. While they aren’t a substitute for being there, they’ve come a long way in recent years and continue to improve over time.

Personally, I always come back to:

- Zoom
- WebEx

While these two aren’t without their glitches, they are a helpful work-around during times of high illness. They can help coworkers feel like they’re participating and holding their own, without putting you and others at risk in the process. 

If you’re looking for a free service, try the Zoom basic plan or Uberconference. Uberconference is free, easy, and it even has solid jingles while you wait. Did I mention it’s free?


  1.  Unclutter and disinfect

 You’d be surprised at how many desks and surfaces don’t get their fair share of wipe downs. Your office may have a cleaning service or employees may clean up after themselves, but more than likely there are areas that haven't been disinfected properly. These areas often include the places where you store office supplies, food, or take a break to catch up with coworkers.

Three germ magnets that probably don’t get disinfected as much as they should:

  • Door handles
  • Phones
  • Whiteboard markers


  1.  Bring Flu Vaccinations to Work

One way to stop the spread of perhaps the most prevalent cause of absenteeism is a simple 10 minute trip to the local pharmacy.

According to the CDC, everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine each flu season.

If you are part of your company's HR team or are just a concerned employee, pitch the idea of bringing a pharmacy in to do an onsite flu-shot clinic. The pricing is often cheaper than having individuals go into the pharmacy or clinic themselves - and it’s quick! and Here’s an example program from RiteAid. If this isn’t a possibility for you, offer an incentive for flu shots such as entering every participant into a drawing for a gift card (or a Kinsa Smart Thermometer!).

 What are your best tips for keeping the office healthy? I look forward to your comments below!


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